MARTIN, Tenn. – Sophomore Myles Taylor tallied his fourth double-double of the season and calmly sank a pair of free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining in overtime to propel The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team to a 76-74 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Austin Peay at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center tonight.
In a game where the Skyhawks trailed by double-figures in the second half, UT Martin clawed its way back thanks to several superb efforts down the stretch. Mike Liabo tossed in a team-high 21 points – including a 5-for-11 performance from beyond the three-point arc – for his 11th career game of 20 or more points. Taylor amassed 19 points to go along with a career-best 13 rebounds while adding three assists and three steals.
Terence Smith (season-high 11 points, five assists, four rebounds), Tobias Dowdell (eight points, nine rebounds, two blocks) and Dee Oldham (eight points, five rebounds) saw the majority of the playing time down the stretch for UT Martin, who set a new season-high in three-point field goals made (11) tonight while improving to 4-12 overall and 1-3 in the OVC.
“We were sputtering but Dee got us going and Mike kept us in it,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said. “Dee can do a little bit of everything and we needed him to bring energy and he brought it. I’m proud of his maturation – he definitely grew up tonight.”
James was also proud of the gritty effort put forth by his team tonight, as UT Martin outrebounded Austin Peay (44-32) and saw its bench outscore the Governors’ reserves by a 40-4 margin.
“Our guys continued to scrap and anything they could do to win, we did it tonight,” James said. “Everybody answered the bell and fulfilled their role when their number was called. Our guys are excited – we have been waiting to get over the hump. We’ve had a bunch of tough games and to be down 10 and keep grinding, it was good to get on the right track.”
Travis Betran and Anthony Campbell each scored 22 points to lead Austin Peay (4-12, 0-2 OVC), while Will Triggs added 15 points for the Governors. Chris Horton tallied seven points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks for Austin Peay, who was limited to just 30 percent shooting (7-for-23) after the first half of play.
Austin Peay raced out to a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game until Liabo and Justin Childs each knocked down trifectas to close the gap to 15-8 at the 13:43 mark. Another Liabo trey and a putback fast break dunk by Dowdell got the Skyhawks within six (19-13) with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half.
The Governors pushed their lead back out to 10 at the 8:15 mark before UT Martin’s Bobby Jones sank a deep 3-pointer on the Skyhawks’ next trip down the floor. After Austin Peay went ahead by 11 points with 4:29 remaining before the half, Childs and Oldham canned three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to slice UT Martin’s deficit to 33-28.
Oldham would add another trey with six seconds left before the halftime buzzer to make the score 36-31 in Austin Peay’s favor at the break. Liabo’s eight points led four Skyhawk scorers who had at least six points at the half, while Betran and Campbell led the Governors with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Two quick buckets inside by Taylor in the first 34 seconds of the second half got UT Martin within a single point at 36-35. Austin Peay’s lead did not exceed five points until a 9-2 run provided the Governors with a 51-41 lead with 11:40 to go in regulation.
UT Martin did not wilt – as Liabo pieced together five straight points to ignite a 9-0 Skyhawk run over the next 2:38. Dowdell would score six of UT Martin’s next eight points, while a Smith three-pointer at the 4:15 mark gave the Skyhawks their first lead of the game at 59-58. Austin Peay briefly reclaimed the lead but another Liabo trey with 3:20 to go in the second half tilted UT Martin back ahead by a 62-60 margin.
The Skyhawks trailed by two with under a minute to go but Oldham evened the score with a clutch offensive rebound and jumper in the paint with 24 seconds left. UT Martin then stood its ground defensively to close out regulation and send the contest into overtime.
Taylor scored the first three points in overtime to give the Skyhawks a lead, but Austin Peay bounced back to claim its first lead of the overtime period (71-69) with 1:29 remaining. A stepback Liabo three-pointer just 20 seconds later catapulted the Skyhawks back on top 72-71, but an old-fashioned three-point play by Triggs gave the Governors a 74-72 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
On the Skyhawks’ ensuing possession, Liabo was fouled while hoisting up a three-point attempt. The junior from Naples, Fla. – who became the program’s 16th member of the 1,000 Point Club earlier on Dec. 29 of this season – connected on his first and third attempts to deadlock the score at 74-all with 15 seconds left.
Betran then attempted a game-winning three-pointer but the shot was off-target. On the rebound, an over-the-back foul was called on Horton, sending Taylor to the charity stripe with the game in the balance. Taylor – who entered the game ranking seventh in the OVC in free throw percentage – made both his attempts to give UT Martin the victory.
The Skyhawks will now hit the road for their next two outings, which will both take place in Nashville. On Thursday, Jan. 10, UT Martin travels to Tennessee State at 7 p.m., while visiting league newcomer Belmont on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Robert Smith/Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle